Photo: Katie Yu (The CW)

I’ve never had the experience of being sent off my exploding home planet by my parents, spending years in suspended animation, being raised on Earth as one of the last of my kind, and then years later discovering my mom was actually still alive and living on a floating city. So, admittedly, I can’t say from personal experience whether the rather subdued Kara/Alura reunion in this episode seemed true-to-life. I can say, however, that as a viewer it felt really anticlimactic. In fact, the decision to treat such a huge twist as a relatively casual reveal is so bizarre that I don’t even quite know what to make of it.

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The idea that Alura is alive and that a chunk of Krypton lives on in Argo City is easily the biggest reveal Supergirl has delivered in its entire three-season run. Yet instead of treating it as such, “Dark Side Of The Moon” treats Kara and Mon-El’s space roadtrip like a normal A-plot in a normal episode that’s also interested in things like Alex’s mysterious assassin, Winn bonding with Ruby, and Lena’s crisis of conscience about what to do with Reign. None of those storylines are bad and, in fact, they each contain some strong moments. The problem is, it’s hard to care about anything else once we find out that HOLY SHIT, KARA’S MOM IS ALIVE!

It doesn’t help that the recasting of Alura makes it hard to connect this Erica Durance version of the character with the Laura Benanti version we spent so much time with back in season one. (It might’ve been helpful if this season had reintroduced the Alura hologram to make Durance’s version feel like more of a presence.) Yet casting shift aside, this episode doesn’t do itself any favors by spending so little time with Kara and Alura. And the scenes we do get between them feel more like expositional catch-ups than a genuinely emotional mother/daughter reunion.

In fact, for most of its runtime “Dark Side Of The Moon” seemed so committed to preventing us from fully emotionally investing in the Argo City reveal that I was almost sure it was going to be undone by episode’s end. And maybe it still will be. The episode’s cliffhanger ending means this very much feels like the first half of a two-parter, and the fact that Argo City High Council leader Selena is also Reign’s witchy overlord certainly hints that there’s something bigger and more nefarious going on. But even if there are more twists coming, this is a really weird time for the show to pull its emotional punches.

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This is the biggest thing that’s happened in Kara’s life since she first arrived on Earth, and I’d love to know more about how she’s dealing with this massive shift in her status quo. Given how deeply Mon-El cares for Kara and how personally he understands the cost of Krypton’s (and Daxam’s) destruction, he seems like the perfect person to help her process this news. Instead, we get an entirely superfluous scene about Mon-El curing an ailing kid in Argo City.

But the biggest mistake “Dark Side Of The Moon” makes is in putting way too much focus on Alex’s storyline, which involves an assassin who wants her dead. The mystery of the assassin’s identity is a red herring (it turns out he’s the twin brother of a Fort Rozz escapee Alex helped take down) as the real point of the storyline is to allow Alex to question how she’ll ever be able to balance her reckless adventurous side with her desire to be a mother. But that just makes it all the more frustrating that the episode devotes so much time to Alex’s entirely irrelevant investigation when, again, HOLY SHIT, KARA’S MOM IS ALIVE!

It’s not that there aren’t things that work in “Dark Side Of The Moon.” Kara’s impassioned speech on behalf of Earth was lovely and I was actually genuinely interested in the High Council’s debate about whether they had a duty to help fix Krypton’s intergalactic mistakes or whether they should focus on protecting Argo City’s remaining Kryptonians at all costs. As frustrated as I was by Alex’s storyline, I did enjoy her conversation with J’onn about parenthood. And even Lena’s decision about whether or not to sacrifice Sam in order to save the world had a lot of potential. I just don’t understand why Supergirl felt the need to cram all of those ideas into this one episode.

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Thematically, “Dark Side Of The Moon” is all about identity. Winn tells Ruby that her identity isn’t defined by her mom’s actions. Alex grapples with the question of how she can blend the two very different sides of her personality. And in Argo City, Kara finally discovers a place where she doesn’t have to balance the Kara Danvers and Supergirl sides of her life—she can just be Kara Zor-El. Ultimately, however, it’s Supergirl that seems to be having the biggest identity crisis. The back half of this season has been all over the place, in ways that are sometimes interesting, but more often than not frustrating.

There’s so much potential in the idea of Argo City, which has long been a part of Supergirl’s comic book origin story. The problem is, the Argo City reveal doesn’t feel like something this season has been building towards, it feels like a last minute plot swerve tossed in after the writers threw out the idea of multiple Worldkillers. And it’s not even a particularly well-done plot swerve. I shouldn’t have to watch the preview for next week’s episode in order to understand that Kara’s plan is to return to Argo City as soon as possible, rather than merely bidding the city goodbye with the nebulous hope of maybe visiting it again one day. Big plot twists need to matter and so far, at least, this one feels like it doesn’t.


Stray observations

  • The villain of the 1984 Supergirl movie was a witch named Selena (Faye Dunaway) who was searching for a Kryptonian McGuffin on Earth, so make of that what you will.
  • Given that Kara was trapped in the Phantom Zone for decades, shouldn’t Alura be way older than Erica Durance? And shouldn’t she be confused by the fact that her daughter isn’t, like, 50?
  • Allowing Winn and Ruby to bond over their supervillain parents was a smart, elegant storytelling decision.
  • “Dark Side Of The Moon” felt like an episode of Star Trek even before Tim Russ (a.k.a. Voyager’s Tuvok) showed up on the Argo City High Council. I hope Russ gets more to do next week as I’ve long thought he’s one of the most talented (and underappreciated) actors in the Trek canon.
  • How convenient that there happened to be a “Hot Coal Disposal” bin right next to Alex when she had a grenade thrown at her.
  • In case you didn’t remember (it took me a minute myself), Ronald Collins is the corrupt Sheriff that Alex and Kara took down as teenagers in that Midvale flashback episode.
  • Props to Alex for buying Ruby a book about 19th century mathematician/tech visionary Ada Lovelace.

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Next week: Kara (maybe) bids Earth farewell